As the season draws to a close on one of the hottest summers in recent years, New Braunfels Utilities officials presented the current outlook and plans for the future to ensure water diversity through projects, conservation and other management strategies. City Council received a presentation Sept. 18 from NBU interim CEO Ryan Kelso on the entity's progress over the past several years, the current status and its plans for the future.

How we got here

The region has experienced record-breaking heat with little rainfall, and while many residents have had to deal with increasing drought restrictions, such as those in San Marcos and Kyle, the residents of New Braunfels did not face the same issue. One of the city's main sources of water, the Canyon Reservoir, has also hit historic lows in recent weeks.

While many residents fear that water may run out, Kelso said that won't happen and is a rumor NBU officials are trying to dispel.

NBU has worked over the past four decades to diversify its water sources. In 1985, NBU sourced all its water from one source, the Edwards Aquifer; in 2023, NBU has seven sources.
Even though there are more water sources for NBU, residents could see up to a 6% increase in the next couple of years based on projections for residents who average 6,000 gallons of water usage annually. However, the cost for water has increased 15 times.

“People's bills haven't gone up by 15 times; we've been able to maintain some affordability. ... Prices are trending up, and it's because we've had to acquire new [water] supplies for the community,” Kelso said.

The outlook

Water demand is projected to increase by more than 10,000 acre-feet in the next 20 years. One acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons of water.

Projects are underway to meet demand and will need to be completed in early 2030 to meet the projected demand in 2040, Kelso said.

A project underway is the NBU Aquifer Storage Recovery project, which began more than a decade ago and serves as a “piggy bank” of water.

“What aquifer storage recovery allows you to do is store potable water out of your system in a suitable aquifer and then withdraw it at a later date,” Kelso said. “You store it whenever you have wet conditions, and you have all of your water supplies available to you. And whenever you're deep in the drags of a drought, like we are right now, that water is essentially in a piggy bank down.”

NBU also offers conservation programs, such as free water and irrigation assessment, and landscape rebates for those who use drought-tolerant landscaping.

One of the most recent developments amid the drought is the launch of the One Water New Braunfels initiative, focused on water conservation, with these key players involved:
  • City of New Braunfels
  • NBU
  • Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority
The initiative will work to create long-term conservation efforts, such as planning for, managing and providing sustainable and resilient water for New Braunfels residents.

Additionally, NBU is in the midst of updating its Water Resource Plan, which takes into account historical data and projected future demand to determine how to utilize existing water sources and if new suppliers may be necessary. An action plan will also be developed as part of the resource plan to reduce water usage, according to the presentation. The plan will be published in early 2024, Kelso said.